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Common client characters and how to deal with them

From the Resene Trade blog

As one of the most important factors of your business, keeping clients happy is an integral 'must-do' for all painters and decorators. However nice you may be, sometimes, customers don’t always reciprocate. If you’re looking to improve client relations, it pays to understand the different types of people you’ll deal with.

Here are some of the more challenging clients you may encounter and how to best deal with them.


Before getting to work on a project, you’ll need sound structure and confirmation from your client. However, you may come across someone indecisive. This client is one who sits on the fence and isn't 100 per cent sure of what they want. One day bold colours may be at the top of their list and the next day, a more neutral palette. Working with this type of person can be incredibly tricky as direction is required to ensure the job gets done on time and to brief.

Indecisive client

If you find yourself working with someone indecisive, there are a few things you can do. Ask them to write down or draw out their initial ideas. From here, don’t allow them to go off on a tangent as this will open up more doors and leave them no closer to a decision. Instead, help select one of their ideas and delve deeper.

For example, if they’re looking at an orange colour palette, find out if they prefer deeper shades such as Resene Daredevil or lighter, pastel variations like Resene Just Dance. With your main colour locked down, you can then work on finding complementary shades.

Encourage an indecisive client to stick with their gut feeling to avoid delays.

And make sure you have everything agreed in writing.


No matter what you’re talking about, some clients believe they know-it-all.

Know-it-all client

While passionate and knowledgeable clients are great, when they try taking over, that’s when tensions can appear. If you come across someone of this vein, you must first remain calm. Yes, they may push your buttons but you must remember why they sought you out – because you’re an expert in this field, not them.

When working out how to deal with a know-it-all, remember the three-D rule: Don’t discredit, discount or disagree. First, listen to their ideas and opinions. If you don’t think this is the best option, introduce your ideas in a subtle way. For example, “that’s a great idea, what if…” This shows that you have actively listened and you’re trying to make their vision even better.


After working hard on a project, while visual reward is satisfying, you’ll also need financial benefits too. While you may be a stickler for on-time invoicing, your clients may not. Late paying clients may be lovely in person, but their delayed payments don’t do you any favours when it comes to covering expenses. Affording a few days for such setbacks is fair, however, if you still haven’t received any payment after several weeks, this is where debt and unbalanced books come into play.

Late-paying client

Solve this problem by enforcing a strict payment plan from the get go. This should include a timeline in which you expect to get paid. Clients will then know what they are expected to pay and when and be able to plan for this. Another way to secure payment is to request an upfront deposit. This encourages clients to pay once the job is complete and gives you a little security should delays occur.

It pays to be strict with clients when expecting payments or else you may run into financial difficulty.


Last but not least is the client who has unreasonable expectations. This customer tends to demand the most outlandish of design ideas – some of which just can’t be done. Or they may request a reasonable job but demand completion in an unrealistic time frame. Both of these scenarios are a major cause of stress and client conflict.

Absurd client

In order to prepare for an encounter with a client like this, there are a few things you can do:


And if all else fails, when you’re dealing with clients remember the golden rule – treat your clients how you yourself would like to be treated.

June 2019

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